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Harvey Weinstein and Hollywood’s Tipping Point

After the initial sexual assault charges were leveled against Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood is in upheaval because scores of victims are coming forward with more accusations.

I’m not going to cover ground that has already been covered thoroughly in the news. I’m more interested in talking about, why now? And, why him?

Steubenville, Ohio

In 2012, a group of high school football players raped a teenage girl. She was underage and unconscious. The young men even recorded their heinous act, Tweeting and texting the evidence.

The case made national news. It was controversial and painful. It shined a spotlight on the favored status that high school football players enjoy in the Ohio Valley, especially because their coaches tried to cover it up.

The young men were sentenced to one- and two-year stints in jail. One of the men was allowed not only to return to his high school football team, but also to play for his college football team.

Stanford University

In 2016, Stanford University student Brock Turner drugged a girl, then raped her behind a dumpster while she was unconscious. Two men happened upon the scene and chased Turner down.

Turner was a star on the school’s swim team. The judge in his case was a Stanford alumni. Turner was sentenced to six months in jail, but was released after three.

Why Not Them?

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, sexual assault happens every 98 seconds. These are only two cases that made national headlines in the last several years. I mention these two cases, specifically, because they caught my attention; I was livid.

These two cases got a lot of press coverage, but I think you’ll agree, there wasn’t the fervor, the outrage that’s sweeping through Hollywood right now.

Why not?

The Harvey Weinstein Effect

On October 5, 2017, the New York Times published an account of nearly 30 years of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault and harassment history. That piece opened the floodgates for dozens of women who are speaking up about his attacks on them.

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Then, victims of other high-powered Hollywood men started telling their stories. Director Brett Ratnor, director James Toback, Amazon Studios’ Roy Price, actor Dustin Hoffman and several others got swept up in the tidal wave of accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Now, men are coming forward too. Kevin Spacey was dumped by Netflix, his agency and the production company behind his hit series, House of Cards, after several men accused him of harassing and assaulting them.

I’d like to say that it’s surprising that so many men were abusing their power to prey on their victims, but I can’t. It’s not surprising, for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s Hollywood.

For as long as there has been casting there have been “casting couches.” Even people who have never auditioned for a part or set foot on a stage know about it. Does it make it right? Hell, no! But it shouldn’t be such a surprise to men everyone in Hollywood that the abuse is so widespread.

Second, duh.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault happens everywhere, all the time. (Remember those statistics?) That viral #metoo campaign that flooded Twitter and Facebook was a testament to this well-known, yet well-suppressed, fact. My friends and I don’t even bother to regale each other with our own stories of sexual harassment and assault, because we could go on all day and night. Literally. And I do mean literally.

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So, why now?

Why was Harvey Weinstein the tipping point, not only in Hollywood, but also around the world, for the seemingly ever-present discussion about sexual harassment and sexual assault? The public at large is willing to believe these victims, instead of interrogating them to the point of silence. They’re being hailed as brave heroes, rather than being painted as sluts and whores. What changed?

I’ve got a couple of theories.

One, to paraphrase Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, people care when pretty people get hurt. The women who first came forward — Ashely Judd, Reese Witherspoon, Angelina Jolie — are beautiful and rich. Hearing them talk about their horrifying experiences pulled at the heartstrings of the same people who would normally say “they were asking for it.” The public found it difficult to wrap their heads around the idea that anyone would attack these women, who seem above reproach. I mean, they star in movies and TV shows. We know them, right?

My second theory takes a little explaining.

The man sitting in the White House is a sexual predator. He has openly bragged about sexually assaulting women, whether he’s grabbing them by the pussy, or walking in on them in their changing rooms.

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Hollywood doesn’t like this man being President of the United States. Almost everyone in Hollywood voted against him. They’ve been frustrated and miserable, living under his thumb since he took office.

See also:Sexism and Androids in Entertainment

So, in a way, I think what’s happening right now in Hollywood is happening because of Donald J. Trump, sexual assaulter-in-chief. Folks in the entertainment industry finally have an actionable way to strike back at a predator. They can’t unseat him, but they can unseat men like him.

Harvey Weinstein, and the others like him, may be the targets, but the building frustration that led to the tidal wave of accusations is a result of Hollywood feeling powerless to stop President Cheeto.

Here’s hoping this tidal wave of justice for sexual assault victims washes clear across the country, and floods Washington D.C.

 


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2 Comments

  1. Fascinating article. I do agree with you about the “pretty people” thing. I think that does make a huge difference.

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